City of Helsinki Wants To Keep Software Costs Secret
The IT department of the city of Helsinki claimed in a report to the city board that migrating to OpenOffice would cost is over 21 million euros. On 10th of April 2012, FSFE filed a Freedom of Information request, asking the city how it had arrived at a surprisingly high cost estimates for running OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) on the city's workstations. The city of Helsinki has now denied this request and has stated that it will not release any details about the calculations.
"This secrecy is truly disappointing. If anyone was looking to Helsinki for a pragmatic assessment of the costs and benefits of Free Software, this should make them reconsider," says Otto Kekäläinen, FSFE's Finland coordinator. The city's administration insists that its calculations are based on a secret formula provided by a consultancy.
Even if one were to accept that business secrets should be more important than the interests of Helsinki's citizens, the city could and should still release the numbers that it put into the formula. This could be such information as the estimated cost per seat, or estimated annual costs for support. "If Helsinki won't explain how they came by their figures, how can anyone take those numbers seriously?" asks Kekäläinen.
Johanna Sumuvuori, member of Helsinki's city council, has been pushing for greater use of Free Software in the city's administration since 2010. Together with 50 out of 85 members of Helsinki's city council, she is now urging the city to at least provide users with up-to-date LibreOffice installs in parallel with the proprietary office suite currently in use.
During 2011, the city of Helsinki ran a pilot project, trying out the Free Software suite as a secondary office suite on all 21 000 city workstations and on as the sole office suite on 600 laptops provided to city trustees. After the pilot ended in December 2011, a report by the city claimed that the cost of using OpenOffice/LibreOffice would cost 70% more than the current proprietary office suite.
FSFE's analysis points to a number of severe deficiencies in both the pilot project and the report. Even though the city's claims appear unrealistic, Helsinki's administration refuses to explain how the figures were calculated.
FSFE is running a project to improve public sector procurement practices in Finland. Public sector bodies frequently make mistakes in their calls for tender by requesting tenders for specific brands and product names, thus discriminating competitors. FSFE works with public bodies to fix mistakes in calls for tender, and to spread best practices on how to increase true competition and thus better quality for a more competitive price.
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